Wednesday, 5 November 2014

One Year On...

Well I’m still here. I actually had the idea to start off with the line “I’m still standing!” but ever since a friend’s Dad once commented that he thought I looked like Elton John it’s soured my relationship with the Pinball Wizard. To be honest I’m not sure who should be more offended Elton or me?!

Anyway it’s almost a year since I was diagnosed with depression, which progressed into a major depressive episode. I suppose the diagnosis was just a way of dotting the i’s and crossing the t’s. It does however put a date on it for my own documenting purposes.

Being still here may not sound much but it makes me happy and please believe me there were times when I didn’t want to be here and never thought I’d be happy again.

A year, it’s a long bloody time but if someone was to ask me what I’ve done this year I wouldn’t be able to say. I know there’s been a lot of rumination and self-loathing. There’s been a fair amount of drinking, although if my doctor asks it’s in moderation. Plus miles of dog walking and more than enough crying for a lifetime.  I’d not worked until recently so on a day-to-day basis the time would drift away into nothingness, it wasn’t laziness more a stagnation.

A constant throughout the year has been the love and support from family and friends. I’ve not always accepted it but it has been very much appreciated.

So I’m back working, Vino’s Kitchen is on hold, it’s been more a case of getting back into a routine and ‘functioning’ (urghh, horrid fucking word) again in society. And No this isn’t part of some ‘Care in the Community’ scheme before any of you ask.

My work history has been chequered to say the least. Let’s just say work and me haven’t always seen eye to eye. The main problem being actually having to do it.

I’m not lazy, though certain ex bosses may argue to the contrary. It’s more a case of not seeing the point of working, especially not everyday anyway.

I always remember at the end of the school year some kids would receive a certificate for 100% attendance, I really couldn’t see the point. I mean going everyday? What for? Why the fuck would you?

I think the problem lies in the fact I always found school and exams easy, whether it was GCSEs, A-Levels or even my degree at University, it was all relatively straight forward. I wrote my final dissertation the night before it was due in and got a 2.1. Not that I’m proud of this, it’s just the way it was and in no way prepared me for the reality of work life.
So actually having to go to work on a daily basis coupled with hating pretty much every job I’ve ever had hasn’t really helped things. It’s not that I’ve grown to hate the jobs I’ve had, I’ve hated them before starting.

I’ve loathed my bosses and in the main the people that I’ve worked with.  Although if you’re reading this and you’re a current or previous colleague I don’t mean you, you’re alright. I’d like to say that it’s not arrogance or an air of superiority over my bosses but it really is. I struggled not to look at them and think they weren’t complete fucktards, most were.

I guess it all harks back to not knowing what I want to do, I still don’t but I know what I won’t do again.  

If you’re interested in knowing what I am actually doing read on.

I work in a school kitchen a couple of hours a day over dinnertime. I’m a kitchen porter so there’s minimal cooking, lots of washing up and I get to serve the kids. It’s the school where N and M go, this in itself has had a varied response from them. M is pleased to see me everyday and N refuses to acknowledge my existence. Thus M gets a large pudding and N gets extra vegetables. Not that I’m childish you understand.

I enjoy working at the school, it feels like I’m doing something quite worthwhile.  The current school cook has been there for 20 years and is looking to retire so I’ve made it clear that I’d like to take over. Plus the cook feeds me a school dinner and does my washing for me. If she wasn’t in her sixties I’d contemplate a little dalliance, she looks after me better than the current Mrs.L (joke!!).

Of course there are a couple of issues, the main being the uniform. I have to wear chef whites, I want to wear a tabard. I reckon I could totally rock a tabard. And contrary to what my friends say, I don’t need to wear a beard net, I think it’s character building for a 5 year old to find a grey curly beard hair in their custard.

Although there is a girl who without fail bursts into tears every time she sees me armed with a jug of gravy. I haven’t worked out if it’s me or the gravy that scares her the most?

I’m also working in a real ale bar in the evenings, I’m the oldest barman in town. This point was proved to me when I was chatting to a colleague.

Now I like to think I’m down with the kids as they say, I know a bit about popular culture, YOLO and all that shite. However after instigating a conversation about music I was left feeling like a proper old fart, I didn’t know a single band she named. Obviously I’m putting it down to her poor taste rather than my advanced years.

To some these jobs may not seem a lot and I’ve been guilty of doing the me thing, thinking I should be doing more but you know what it’s a starting point and I’m ok with that.

The thing is I’m probably the happiest I’ve been for a long time and that’s ok, I’m not worried about being happy I don’t think there’s some payoff to come because things are good at the moment.

So thanks to all those who’ve supported me over this year, whether it’s a text, a call, an email, just reading this old rubbish. It means a lot.

I’m going to finish by doing something I’ve not done in a while and that’s a recipe, it’s where the writing first started and feels appropriate to do it again.

Sticky Toffee Pudding

Until this weekend I’d never made this classic pudding before, I’d eaten plenty but never had a go myself and I have to say it’s really easy. The recipe comes from The Guardian, it’s one of their ‘perfect’ recipes where they test variations and amalgamate to find the best version. Their recipe contains walnuts, mine doesn’t, and I don’t see the point.



175g dates, stoned and roughly chopped

1 tsp. bicarbonate of soda

300ml boiling water

50g unsalted butter, softened

80g golden caster sugar

80g dark muscovado sugar

2 eggs, beaten
175g flour
1 tsp. baking powder

Pinch of ground cloves


115g unsalted butter

75g golden caster sugar

40g dark muscovado sugar

140ml double cream

1. Pre-heat the oven to 180C. Butter a baking dish approximately 24cm x 24cm.

2. Make the sauce by putting all the ingredients into a pan with a pinch of salt and heating slowly until the butter has melted, then turn up the heat and bring to the boil. Boil for about 4 minutes, until the sauce has thickened enough to coat the back of a spoon. (I stirred it constantly, not wanting to ruin another pan by burning it.)

3. Pour half the sauce into the base of the dish and then put it in the freezer while you make the rest of the pudding.

4. Put the dates and bicarbonate of soda in a heatproof dish and cover with the boiling water. Leave to soften while you make the rest of the pudding.

5. Beat together the butter and sugar until fluffy, and then beat in the eggs, a little at a time. Stir in the flour, baking powder, cloves and a pinch of salt until well combined, and then add the dates and their soaking water and mix well.

6. Take the dish out of the freezer and pour the batter on top of the toffee sauce. Put into the oven for 30 minutes, until firm on top.
6. Heat the grill to medium, and poke a few small holes evenly over the surface with a skewer or fork, and then pour over the rest of the sauce. Put briefly under the grill, this almost gives a crunch to the top. It’s personal preference to do this or not, I wouldn’t. Take your eye off it for a minute to see what the screaming from the other room is about and you’ve fucked up a perfectly good pudding by burning it to a crisp. Best thing to do is pour the sauce over and stick it back in the oven.

Serve with cream, ice-cream, custard or whatever floats your boat, I’d stay away from yoghurt or crème fraiche, I mean if you’re making a sticky toffee pudding you’ve already surrendered to the calorific content, in for a penny and all that.



Thursday, 14 August 2014

My Two Penneth

Ok so depression has been back in the news. The shitty fucking illness has claimed another victim. 

Here’s my take, yes it’s another blog about depression but if it raises awareness and opens discussion then it serves a purpose.

As always feel free not to read.

The sad death of Robin Williams has led to a lot of media coverage, an outpouring of sympathy and then rage against how the media cover such events.

Obviously I didn’t know the man, I wouldn’t say I was his biggest fan but I was upset.  As well as being upset the news scared me, really scared me.

The first I heard of it was when a friend messaged me in the morning to say they were thinking of us as No.2 was going into hospital for an operation and then added 'Robin Williams :-( fuck depression'.

I checked the news and there it was in black and white, then went on to twitter and it was all over. Everyone had an opinion and was suddenly an expert on depression.

I don’t claim to be an expert, I have my own opinion and that’s all this is my opinion. Not on Robin Williams but on depression. I can only speak from my experience.

For me this is the best explanation I’ve seen, I’ve posted it before: -

When we were sat on the hospital ward waiting for Meg to go down to theatre and another family was sat opposite. The mother was discussing the story with her daughter. All I heard was “I don’t understand it, look how much he’d done, how popular he was.”

To me this is crux of most peoples thinking, how can someone so popular, so successful do ‘THAT’?

The thing is depression doesn’t give a single fuck who you are. It doesn’t care how many people love you, or how much money you have. It doesn’t discriminate. It can kick anyone’s arse at any time.

The common denominator is that we all have a brain, a brain that can get a little broken.

And on the subject of doing ‘THAT’ it seems such a selfish act and I’ve said before that depression to me is a very selfish and narcissistic illness. It’s all about me; how I piss people off, how I feel, lost in my own head shutting out the world.

But I know when I thought about it and I did, I’ve admitted it before. It wasn’t about me making a statement being a martyr, going out in a blaze of glory. It was genuinely (unrationally) but genuinely thinking people would be so much better off without me. Things would be better for everyone if I weren’t around.

We’re all different I know that, people have different reasons for everything they do. 

So why was I scared?

I was scared because I thought it could be me. I’m doing ok at the moment, a dip here and there but generally all right. The fear comes from the thought of the next episode. You see deep down I don’t think I’ll ever be ‘cured’. I try not to think of the future like that but when it’s in the news it’s tough not too. I have therapy and maybe I’ll always take antidepressants, who knows?

I found talking to people I don’t know easier, the Samaritans do an amazing job, I’ve phoned them in the past – 08457909090

I find the group therapy of twitter helpful, although it presents me with different issues.

Anyway there was also the fact that Meg was having her operation on Tuesday. It was the first time I’d been back in a hospital since Dad went him in for his routine operation. That didn’t turn out too well.

The following is an example of how depression hits me, how my brain works.

Tuesday wasn’t about me, it was about being a Dad, a rarely feel like a Dad, I see myself as a child most of the time.

Meg's operation went fine and we waited in the recovery waiting room for her to come round from the anesthetic. As she was waking we went in, she was hooked up to a few machines and was crying obviously in pain and generally disorientated as to where she was.

The problem was I couldn’t be in there, I had a panic attack, went dizzy and thought I was about to pass out. I had to leave.

Now a few days later and looking at it rationally I see it was all too much like seeing Dad again, the machines, the hospital. The thought of losing someone else.

At the though time I stood outside the hospital crying. Crying about what a shit Dad I was, how I couldn’t be there for my daughter when she needed me. 

At that point I hated myself again, I’d managed to turn the day into being about me. How I felt. How people viewed me. What a failure I was. 

And that’s how it gets you you’re lost in your head, thinking you’re so bad that people would be better off without you.

Meg is recovering and I appreciate all the kind words and messages we received.

As always this isn’t written for sympathy. As they say opinions are like arseholes, everyone’s got one. 

This is just this arsehole’s view.

Friday, 8 August 2014


I’ll make no apologies for the following, I suppose if I want this to be a true reflection of me then it should be 'warts and all' as they say.

If you're expecting some attempt at humour then please read one of the earlier pieces where I have a go at Paul Hollywood and Greg Wallace. Or the time I beat a 70 year old in the Dad’s race at sports day. Things were definitely a lot simpler back then.

Some would call these pieces I write a journey, I fucking hate that phrase ‘a journey’ everybody on TV these days has to have a journey. People can’t just sing or bake without coming from somewhere or be heading to somewhere else. I reckon life would be far easier if we all stayed where the fuck we were.

So this isn’t my journey it’s just me, yes I may embellish the events and play up the Larry David persona a little but essentially what you see is what you get. 

I do worry sometimes that people don’t see the humour and think that I really am that much of a tool.

Earlier in the week I wrote about the horror of a family holiday. People may have read that and thought what a spoilt wanker, moaning about going on holiday, have a word with yourself.

The problem obviously wasn’t the holiday or the family, it was me. It’s always me. I know this.

I’m mental yes, stupid no.

I found it difficult being on holiday and subsequently my mood and behavior changed. I can spot the obvious signs but miss the more subtle ones. That’s the problem with my depression I get caught up in my own head and then stick two fingers up to the world around me.

I find it tough to be around people, especially those I haven’t seen for some time. I wait for the inevitable questions – How are you? Are you better? What’s happening with the business? What are you going to do in the future? What’s with the beard?

For some reason my beard seems to be a signal of some existential crisis, to me I simply don’t want to look like the person I was. Shit maybe they’re right!

I realise that people don’t ask out of malice but these aren’t conversations I relish, probably because I have no answers as yet. 

It’s weird I have no issue writing about it, I guess it’s because there’s a degree of anonymity and also I don’t think anyone really reads this anyway.

So to the holiday.

As the week progressed my sleeping deteriorated, lying awake from 2am with my brain shouting at me. I find that the hardest thing to cope with, it has such a negative impact on the next day but also gives me the fear of going to bed in the first place.

It becomes a self-fulfilling prophecy, if you go to bed thinking about not sleeping you can pretty much guarantee you’ll be staring at the clock in the early hours.

Anyway the point of this piece isn’t about me; it’s about the people who have to deal with me. I think the negative effect it has on them gets lost.

As I say no apologies for this.

Yesterday was the last day of the holiday, it should’ve been today but to be honest I’d had enough. So I manufactured our early exit by conforming that it was going to rain all day, there were road works and therefore the journey would be awful.

The girls wanted to spend the last day on the beach so off we went. I was in a foul mood, snappy, irritable and edgy. I wanted to be on my own.

It was a beautiful day, the tide was out and there was a huge expanse of beach to walk along. I put my headphones in and off I went. I had said where I was going so it didn’t seem like an issue. 

There was a pier in the distance so I had it in my mind that’s where I’d walk. Practicing my mindfulness techniques as I walked along.

It probably took 45 minutes to walk there and then I set off back, my mood having improved considerably, I was actually enjoying myself. After about 20 minutes I saw a figure walking toward me sobbing uncontrollably.

You see that’s the point, all week I’d been wrapped up in my head, blind to my actions and the signs.

Mrs.L had seen them, when I hadn’t returned after 45 minutes she set off to look for me. I had wanted to be on my own. She thought I’d gone to kill myself.

Personally depression is a horrible debilitating illness but worse than that it impacts the people around me and I just don’t see it.

Please don’t think I’m trying to be some kind of poster boy for depression, I’m not. Though if I could ask one thing it would be to check on the people who live with someone with depression, it really is shit for them.

I’m not looking for personal sympathy. Though it would be disrespectful not to mention the people who have shown me more kindness and support than I could ever imagine. 

Some are old friends who are stuck with me, many I hardly know but would now call friends. Whichever category you fall into I will always be grateful.

For the record I wasn’t contemplating it, I’m different to the person who thought about it earlier in the year.